Thursday, July 02, 2009

Giving Up On Dead Space



I've had enough of Dead Space (Xbox 360). It's just too disturbing for me. With all the shocks and gratuitous gore in the game, I've had to lower the volume on my home theater to a sound setting of '8' just so I can keep on playing the game. Despite that, the ultra-violence is just too much for me to take.

Granted, everything about the game is EXCELLENT. The GUI? Amazing. They implemented this system where movie dialogue playing back between your character and others is shown as a floating screen in front of your character. Everything else uses this fantastic system as well. Browsing your inventory, looking at your map, objectives, etc....they use this same system where graphical interfaces float in front of you, and it makes the game extremely seamless and immersive, because you never leave the 'game' environment to do other things like check your inventory, health, etc.

The in-game puzzles? Very creative. I liked a lot of the little challenges they put in the game and I think they tried their best to not make them too 'game-y'; for instance, there's this asteroid that you're supposed to remove from the ship that you land on in the game, and to do it, you have to go from different areas in both zero-gravity and in deep space (where there's absolutely no air, so you'll have to rely on your RIG's (your spacesuit's) limited supply of oxygen while you're out there). The puzzles they put in there are interesting and believable, given the scenarios the characters in the game are put through. I don't recall any puzzle which seemed out of place (at least, throughout my playthrough of chapters 1 through 8). The in-game maps where your adventures take place are also well laid out, and I never found myself lost thanks to the built-in waypoint system that points out where you're supposed to go.

The action gameplay itself, if appreciated far removed from the extreme violence, provides quite a good challenge. Your character is controlled from the third-person, and because of this, you won't be able to pull off fast 180-degree turns facing from one direction to another (as you would in an FPS like Counter-strike or Doom). Your character moves slowly, but it's obvious they did this in the interest of realism, and to heighten the horror aspects of the game.

To be honest, practically everything about this game is nearly perfect. A gripping storyline. Solid gameplay which rivals established horror franchises like Doom 3 or Resident Evil 5. Interesting puzzles with a variety of ideas...this game has it all. It also helps that the graphics, music, and sound effects are all top notch as well. Had this game been released around the time of Bioshock or Call of Duty, it would probably had been in the running for Game of the Year.

Which takes me to, what I feel, is the flaw of the game. And this flaw only applies to me. Because I know that other gamers out there might have a stronger stomach for this type of genre.

Dead Space, despite the myriad of game-related aspects that it gets right....is just too violent and disturbing.

And I can't explain my position on this quite well either. I've played violent games. I cringed the first time I saw a locust getting chainsawed in half in Gears of War. I finished Doom 3 on the PC, with most of the bells and whistles for the graphical effects turned on.

I've had my share of horror games. This is one of those few that has me screeching to a halt in terms of attempting to even finish it.

Picture this. To kill the monsters you have to dismember them. Every time you encounter a monster, you have to tear it limb by limb in order to kill it. Shooting enemies at their bodies won't kill them; you have to painstakingly rip them apart with whatever weapon(s) you have on hand.

Doing this the first time is fine. Doing this for the next six hours or so....it definitely gets to you. Is it repetitive? Not really. Because you only have to break about two or three limbs on a monster to kill them. So you never break the same two or three limbs twice.

Can you imagine how ridiculously sick that is?

Sometimes when I'm playing the game, my wife can't stand watching it because it's the same violent sequence every time during an encounter with enemies. And if they get close enough, you're treated to a face-to-face battle with whichever monster manages to get a grip on you. It's brutal and painful (looking) when you fail; your character gets ripped apart. And even if you're winning, you can really see your character wincing in agony, trying to get away from whatever monstrosity is trying to destroy him.

The game trudges along at an extremely horrifying pace. One minute, the ship is completely devoid of life. And the next minute, a four limbed freak shows up, literally out of nowhere, right behind you....

This happens a lot. And it never gets any easier, considering you're almost always nearly out of ammunition....and when you're out of ammo, you don't have that many viable options left to fight back.

It's exciting the first time you get in a monster encounter, sure.... But at some point, the way the game 'shocks' you with enemies from every nook and cranny becomes stressful, and the stress got to me. I can't believe it, to be honest...a game that's just too scary for me to even bother finishing it.

I'm sure there are gamers out there who are looking for the next level of horror games. This is definitely it. Dead Space does a lot of things right in every other aspect. Players looking for a terror-filled ride will get their fill. Dead Space is very intense, and it never lets up; it never gives you a break. You'll think you're used to the darkness of the maps or how the monsters attack you, but it will constantly surprise you with different scenarios or situations.

In that sense, it's actually a great game. At the same time, it just does too good of a job in scaring me away.

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